On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted in favor of a bill that would annex the Jordan Valley and place it under full Israeli sovereignty. Israel National News noted that this bill comes weeks after US Secretary of State John Kerry presented a plan to withdraw from Judea and Samaria altogether, and to temporarily retain a 15 kilometer wide strip of the Jordan Valley as a security zone with no civilian presence whatsoever.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said that security arrangements with the Palestinians “will no doubt include many things, but first among them will be that the State of Israel’s security border remains along the Jordan [River],” adopting the stance originally included in the Allon Plan.
The Jerusalem Post reports that the Prime Minister’s stance on the Jordan Valley’s centrality to Israel’s security is shared by a majority of Israelis. In a survey commissioned by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 63% of Israelis said they opposed an Israeli pullout from the Jordan Valley. The poll also found that 74% were opposed to having international forces in the Jordan Valley instead of IDF troops.
Shulamit Kaminsky, a resident of Shadmot Mechola and the director of the Jordan Valley Development Fund, reflects the sentiments of many in stating that the Jordan Valley communities themselves play a vital role in the security of the entire country. Kaminsky noted, “The message we got from the Minister’s Committee for Legislation supporting the Jordan Valley is finally some good news. As Defense Minister Boogie Yaalon said during his visit here last week, if there are no pioneers there is no security.”
But security is not the sole rationale for maintaining a civilian presence in the Jordan Valley.. “The Jordan Valley is an integral part of the Land of Israel and should definitely be annexed to the State of Israel. This is critical to Israel’s security but it is also critical to Israel’s spiritual integrity” declared Sondra Oster Baras, Director of Christian Friends for Israel Communities (CFOIC Heartland).
Baras, who through her work supports the people of the Jordan Valley continued, “Joshua led the Children of Israel by crossing the Jordan River, arriving in the Jordan Valley, and then camping in Gilgal. It is only just and fair that the modern Jewish community of Gilgal as well as all of the communities in the area continue to grow and thrive as centers of Jewish life.”
The economic value of the agricultural development in the Jordan Valley offers further reason to maintain and Israeli presence in the area. Since 1968 the dedicated pioneers of the Jordan Valley have tirelessly developed the region despite the difficult climate conditions, and its distance from large urban centers.
The Jordan Valley Regional Council reports that the rapid development of the agro-technical technologies, high quality professional guidance and an independent research and development unit, have brought stability and growth to agriculture in the area.
Spread across 21 communities, the pioneers of this area have truly made the desert bloom. Their fields are lined with Medjoul date trees and table grapes. Their prosperous greenhouses produce hot peppers, herbs and spices. The value of production for this 33 thousand dunam of cultivated area is approximately 500 million NIS.
Kaminsky adds, “As a pioneer in the Jordan Valley for the past 32 years, and someone who sees how much we’ve accomplished here, I plan to keep on doing whatever I can to continue to develop our homeland, particularly in the Jordan Valley.”